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Birmingham Staycation Ideas

Sunday, 20 January 2019

After 24 hours in the air on our way home from Australia, Jonny and I landed back in London for a brief evening before our annual family trip to Birmingham commenced. My brothers both go to university there so it's been a thing for a few years now. We went just before Christmas so our first stop was the Christmas market for some lunch but since I'm a bit late getting this post up, I'm just going to share the things that you can do year round!


Checking In

Over the past few years, we've stayed in different hotels around the city but since there were a few more of us this year, we decided to try something different and went for an apartment.

Saco are a brand I've stayed with before in London so I knew the one my mum picked was going to be nice. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchen, living area and a huge balcony looking over Birmingham, it was just what we wanted.


Brindley Place

Our apartment block was just down the road from Brindley place which is one of our favourite parts of the city. It's an area of bars and restaurants lining the canal and such a lovely place to spend the evening so of course it was our first choice when deciding where to spend my dads birthday.

We started with a round of cocktails at Pitcher and Piano then went further down to a restaurant called The Canal House for dinner.


Warwick Castle

The castle is about 30 minutes drive from Birmingham city and a fun way to spend a few hours if you have a car. We wandered around the grounds, watched the birds of prey show which was pretty cool and finished our visit with a guided tour of the rooms inside the castle.

Thomas Oken Tea Room

Just outside the castle is the cafe in a cute, little, crooked cottage and the perfect place for lunch! The owners told us that the place is haunted and the room that we were in once caught fire with no other explanation than paranormal activity; but that didn't put us off, it was super cute and very cosy after a cold morning.

With a whole shelf of board games and the table soon filling up with teapots, finger sandwiches and sweet treats, we had a lovely afternoon stuffing our faces and playing taboo.


Coming back in time for Christmas meant getting used to the weather and as per usual, I was freezing. Luckily, my feet weren't a problem because I took part in a Secret Santa with Jake Shoes and arrived home to the ultimate winter pair of Converse.

I love Converse and had been travelling in the same pair since I left in January; they were literally falling apart by the time I got back to England so Roxii (aka my secret Santa) did well with this pair! Black all over and perfectly amped up for winter with a leather outer, cleated soles and fur lining. I haven't taken them off since I've been back!

Escape Live 

My brother works at Escape Live in Birmingham and he wanted us to see their new room so we went along and spent the morning trying to escape from a time travel disaster. We managed it with 3 seconds to spare.. much more successful (and actually a much more enjoyable experience) than my last escape room experience!


 Cadbury World

Our last stop of the weekend was Cadbury World! We were actually a little bit disappointing with their service - they kinda rushed us through - but anything involving lots of chocolate is still lots of fun! Having gone a little bit mad in the shop at the end, we left with bags and bags of discount chocolate just before Christmas so it wasn't all bad.

And after that, our trip came to and end! Stopping to pick Molly up from my other brothers house, we made our way back home ready for our next adventure a few days later; December was a busy month!

2018 travel round up

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

They say you find yourself when you go traveling and I agree; I definitely felt that way after my first backpacking trip at the end of 2017. The only problem, was coming home. I was completely and utterly lost when I arrived back in London after three months. Moral of that story? Don't book return flights.

Within two weeks, I had booked the cheapest flight I could find; a one way ticket back to Southeast Asia. And when are flights cheapest? The specific hour of the year that you least want to be on a budget, long haul flight, with no entertainment system and a screaming baby on either side of you: as the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve.

Phuket, Thailand

After celebrating New Years in the air over India, I arrived in Phuket on January 1st and still can't really believe what happened there. I spent a few days getting over the tiredness, (I could blame it on jet lag although I'm pretty sure it was just my body getting used to drinking every night again.) I went out exploring with new friends during the day, and partied every night. Then one night when I decided to wash my hair with hand soap instead of paying for a new shampoo, I met Jonny at the hostel. We've probably spent less than 3 weeks apart since then.

Phi Phi Island, Thailand

We both had separate plans to go to Phi Phi the next day but had bought tickets at different times so I met up with him and his friends when I arrived later that afternoon. Phi phi is crazy and after one night partying on the beach with the most disguising buckets of alcohol I've ever sampled, we decided to book into a hotel room and stay in watching films for the rest of the trip .

 It was back to Phuket for another couple of nights before we split up to go our separate ways.




Chiang Mai, Thailand
 
 I massively fell for Chiang Mai the first time and having already spent the best part of a month there in November, I ended up staying for another two weeks in January. I was sad to have left Jonny but excited to be back in one of my favourite places. I was still finding new things to see and do everyday. On top of that, I had quite a bit of work to do so I had some wonderful days working from my laptop with a smoothie bowl on one side and a fresh coconut on the other. Literally living the dream.
With my visa about to run out, I had to move country and with no plans this time around, I decided to fly to Vietnam to spend another week with Jonny before he had to go back home to New Zealand.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I got myself a three month visa for Vietnam as I planned to travel north once he had left but it turned out that I didn't need it. I stayed in Vietnam for 3 weeks in total, all of which was spent in HCMC, the place felt like home by the time I finally left.

Being a big city girl, I loved the hustle and bustle and the crazy life that goes on through the streets of Saigon. The night I arrived was absolute madness; Vietnam had just won some kind of football semi-finals and I spent over an hour waiting for my visa to be processed because the officers on the other side of the glass were huddled around a computer watching the game. The whole county was out celebrating that night!
Apart from a couple of days sat in the chair at a tattoo shop (not me, the boys), I spent every minute of the next five days with Jonny and his friends, Jake. We all stayed at a party hostel for a few nights, before again, relocating to a hotel just next door. When the rest of the boys left to spent a day in Malaysia before catching their flight home, Jonny missed his flight and stayed with me in Vietnam; it was my first proper holiday romance.

I was traveling with no ties but he was just on holiday so when the time finally came for him to leave, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had a few fun hours here and there but honestly, I was just miserable for the next few days.
 I don't know how it happened but after hours worth of video calls, 24/7 messaging and a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I decided I was going to go to New Zealand.

My budget flight entailed nineteen hours and three planes but it was particularly cheap as it was on the TET holiday; which happened to be February 14th. How cringe. lol

Auckland, New Zealand 

Auckland was more of a 'move' than a travel destination and I spent five months working and living there with Jonny. Life was pretty simple but we were in 'new relationship mode' and just happy being with each other. Within a few weeks, we moved into our own place and I started paying rent for the first time in my life. Jonny also tried to teach my how to use a washing machine (although I still pretend I don't know how to use it so he'll do my washing.)
He bought a new motorbike the week I arrived so every weekend we would go on some kind of adventure; beaches, mountains, countryside, we even found a waterfall on our last week there. 

  Whilst there were quite a few adventures, as well as weekly visit to the cinema, the casino and a whole load of restaurants, we spent many a winters evening in bed watching Netflix with a pizza, a family sized bar of chocolate and the electric blanket turned up full. 

In July, Jonny took a years leave from his job in the NZRAF and we started our adventure by taking a road trip through New Zealand; it was one of the highlights of the year for both of us.

Waitomo, New Zealand

We first stopped overnight in Hamilton to visit some family then, in the morning we headed straight to the glow worm caves. Honestly, one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. We had a guided tour and a ride on a little row boat through the cave, which was lit up with thousands of glow worms, it felt like a real life Disney ride. 

Rotorua, New Zealand

After our morning there, we drove an hour to Rotorua. Stopping on the way for pastries and pies, we spent the afternoon at Skyline adventure park and the next morning at the Polynesian hot springs spa. With the new Luna moon that night, an evening spent stargazing from a hot tub finished off a very magical day.


Taupo, New Zealand

With a little bit more time in Taupo, we were able to relax in between sight seeing. Luckily, we were staying in an incredible room at Boulevard Waters which had a huge bathtub. 
Taupo adventures included Huka falls, the Crators of the moon and another thermal pool spa.


Wellington, New Zealand

We actually visited a couple of times whilst we were living in Auckland so I'd already seen all the touristy spots by the time we finished our road trip at his parents house in Wellington. Between unloading our life out of the car and last minute packing for our next big adventure, we spent time with his family and got back to our usual gym, eat, cinema routine for a couple of days.


Sydney, Australia

We left Wellington (a little later than planned; I missed my first ever flight because Jonny left the airport without one of his cases?!) for Oz with his brother and dad in tow. There wasn't too much time to explore but of course we managed to see the Opera house, wander around Darling Harbour and visit Newtoun, a very cool suburb where I had the most incredible smoothie bowl, just the start of what was to come from Australia.
 
Gold Coast, Australia

After very almost missing another flight, we finally arrived in Surfers Paradise; our home for the next few months. 
 We worked hard on the Gold Coast; but moving in with his best friends made it loads of fun. Since we were all doing Uber Eats (another strange highlight of my year). We spent most of our time together waiting for deliveries outside McDonalds at 3am or excitedly stuffing our faces with cancelled order.  

Nights off were usually spent either drinking by the pool, watching the sunset by the canal or playing ping pong at the bar. It was a pretty chill lifestyle.


As our time in the Gold Coast came to an end, it dawned on me that we really had spent alot of our time working, so we toned down the hours and made time for trips to Movie World, the Sky Deck and days at the beach.
 
Birmingham, England

On 10th December, after a 24 hour flight, Jonny and I arrived back in the UK. Landing in London, our visit home was short lived because less than 24 hours later, we had our annual family trip to Birmingham. I finally got to introduce him to my family and we have an action packed few days celebrating my dads birthday, visiting the Christmas market, Cadbury World and Warwick Castle.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Making the most of his first visit to Europe meant that we packed in quite a few trips in December. A few days later we were back at the airport and off to Edinburgh! 

Since New Zealand isn't exactly know for its countless castles, visiting Edinburgh's famous fort was top of his list; that's 2 in one week!  

 Between visits to the Weatherspoons, (something else they don't have in New Zealand and something Jonny now loves like a true Brit) we also did the Royal Mile, the Christmas Market and a ghost tour, which I had to sit out of at the end because I was too scared.


London, England

Finally, a few days at home for the festive period. Around Christmas day at home, I caught up with my friends and family, met both of my brothers new girlfriends and showed Jonny around London.



Wiltshire, England

And my last trip of the year was just a day long!
My dad had some work in Bath so Jonny and I tagged along. Since we were only supposed to have a couple of hours, all we had planned for the afternoon was to visit the Roman baths but my dad had the rest of the day off, we decided to visit Stonehenge too. Having Jonny here has been a great excuse to see all the places that I could never be bothered to see before. 

 

Whilst I went on less trips than the year before, 2018 was another crazy year for me - two years of travel madness that couldn't be more different! Leaving home on my own on new years day, I thought I was going to spend a few months solo traveling around Asia and then go back to real life, I never could have imagined how 2018 actually turned out!

WORKING HOLIDAY: How I'm making money in Australia

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Whilst my last few weeks have been very relaxing (if you follow me on twitter, you'll have seen that I gave up working so I could spend my time having fun and persuing the best smoothie bowls in the area lol), I spent my first few months in Surfers Paradise working pretty hard. At first, it was a struggle but after a while, I had the perfect amount of hours at each place; I was working at odd hours of the day but I liked it and it kept my week exciting.

For anyone considering a less typical working holiday in Oz, at the beach rather than one of the big cities, heres what I've been up to!

The Beach Hut

When I decided that I was going to go and work in Australia for a year, I envisioned myself at a cute little vegan cafe on the beach and this job is the closest I got to that. I worked two or three shifts a week at a stand selling fresh cinnamon donuts, hot dogs and snow cones right on the edge of the beach. The job itseslf was pretty fun, they paid me cash at the end of each shift and I got to eat and drink whatever I wanted whilst I was there.

4 - 15 hours

SEO Content Writing

I couldn't believe it when I found myself a job here in SEO. Surfers Paradise is a holiday destination so I just resided to the fact that I wasnt going to find a 'proper' job whilst I was travelling but low and behold, I spent a few monnths writing about stag do's and hen parties, on a mac, in a real office.

5-10 hours

Freelance Writing

I wrote about 20 pieces of content each week for a company in London and it was honestly the dream travel job. I used to do most of it when I was at home alone in the evenings; but if I fancied, it was super easy to take the laptop to a cafe and spend the afternoon there. I got paid in pounds for this one which was great because that goes twice as far in Oz

15 hours

Blogging

If we look at money made per piece, blogging is my biggest income but it is definitely not my most steady so as usual, any blogging money is a nice extra, the same way it was when I was at home. Usually this is through sponsored posts on this blog!

Various

Uber Eats

Uber is such an enjoyable job, I'm not sure I'd even call it that. I make between $6-$9 per delivery so it's not the best money but I don't actually look at it as work, it's a hobby that pays. I can spend anywhere from 2-40 hours a week Ubering so income is different every time.

Since Jonny works the night shift at the supermarket, I do most of my deliveries after midnight.
I actually find this the best time to Uber for a few reasons. It's too hot to cycle during the day plus theres usually a 1.2 boost on after midnight. But the best reason for late night deliveries is because that's when drunk people order Uber Eats and if they fall asleep and don't answer their phone, then we get to keep the food! We got over $100 worth of food jut last night!

10-40 hours per week

6 things you should know before you move from London to Auckland

Monday, 12 November 2018

I moved to New Zealand earlier this year with absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.
Usually, I'd do heaps of research before I book anything but not this time, I was just excited to see Jonny again so I booked my flight as soon as my visa come through and was in a country that I had never even given a second through within a few days.

Moving straight in with a house full of kiwis made it a bit easier (I had people to ask about words I didn’t understand – yarn, jandals, chur?!) but there were definitely things that would have made life easier had I known about them beforehand. So today, I'm sharing my expertise with you so, unlike me, you can be fully prepared

It's not 24 hour

No, the shops actually close and this is something that really did get on my nerves. Once, I convinced Jonny to drive me to the other side of town to find a smoothie bar that I had spotted online and it was closed when we arried; at 3:05 on a sunny Saturday afternoon! Like honestly stuff like that happened all the time which made it very hard for me when I want a bar of chocolate in the middle of the night.

The worst one was Easter; I thought we were going to starve to death. For three days, the supermarkets were closed, the petrol stations were closed, everything was closed. The only thing that was open was McDonalds.

There are no people here

Fun fact for you, when I left Vietnam, it was the TET holiday but I was very confused as to why they were celebrating it in NZ. Surely it was so quiet because everyone was at home celebrating with their families. Apparently not, according to google, there are twice as many people in London as there are in the whole of New Zealand. Even in Auckland, where it’s the most densely populated there are just no people around. The airport took about 3 minutes to get through, the roads are calm and there are hardly any people in the city centre. We went to visit a waterfall and were the only ones there which was amazing. Just being is a whole lot easier when there’s space to move.

Prepare to chill out

I can't talk for other countries, or even too much for the rest of the UK, but coming from a busy city like London, it was a bit of a shock moving to Auckland. Everybody walks slowly and takes their time, no one gets angry and makes comments about the tourists blocking the street under their breath.

When you get on the bus, you stop to say hello to the bus driver and it’s nice, just really strange to start with. I know this sounds terrible but it took me a while to remember how to be nice. 

When it comes to the office, work is so chill. There’s no rushing around like a crazy person, you take a full lunch break in the kitchen and sit and talk to your colleagues. And if that whole hour wasn’t a big enough treat, you also get a morning and an afternoon tea break which is something that I took full advantage of, imagine that working back in London. lol.

Also, this photo was taken on my commute.

It does get cold

This one really threw me because just like my younger brother, and everyone else I spoke to from the motherland, I just assumed that New Zealand was the same as Australia and that they were both super hot all year around (Oz is hot all year round, right?) That definitely isn’t the case in New Zealand. Just like home, in the winter, mornings are cold, evenings are short and it rains a lot. It was also pretty depressing that all of this was happening in June and July while everyone in the UK was firing up the BBQ. It wasn't all bad, unlike back home, the sun does comes out and its not absolutely freezing, just a bit chilly.  
 

You’ll probably get fat

Another thing I did not know about New Zealand before I got here, is just how bad the junk food culture is. It is cheaper to eat out than it is to buy food at the supermarket and it’s literally a junk food heaven with a Mcdonalds, KFC, Subway, Dunkin Donuts and everything else you could imagine on every street; and yes I did get sucked in. Tell me you wouldn't be tempted if you could get Pizza Hut or Dominos for $5 - thats two pounds fifty to me and you!

Shoes are not essential


One last thing to add: In London, most people are dressed for the office, suit and tie, pencil skirts and most definitely, shoes! I was very confused when I first arrived and started noticing that people don’t necessarily take shoes with them when they leave their house. I thought Jonny was crazy the first time he went out without any on but it seems to be a normal thing. People walking around the supermarket barefoot, the malls, Mcdonalds (yes ok we spent a lot of time there) and I’ve even seen people walking down the street without any shoes on. Very odd.

what I learnt from working too much

Monday, 29 October 2018

At one point last month I had 4 physical jobs, as well as my blog; and I had just accepted a new freelance client. Initially I was excited about all the money I would have coming in by the end of the week but pretty quickly, everything started going wrong and I couldn't work out why; and then I realised. I had worked a 60 hour week (mostly on night shifts) and then kept going. I worked 9 days straight before I realised.

After complaining to anyone who would listen, a couple of people asked me why I was working so much and honestly, I had absolutely no idea. Any one of my jobs would have sufficed to pay for my rent, food and anything else I want or need on a weekly basis. Finally it clicked and I had to remind myself, this is my working holiday life not my back home and saving for a house life. I'm here to enjoy myself; I can work myself into the ground when I'm back home if I want to.
So I made a few changes in the past couple of weeks and although I am earning a little bit less, I'm back to enjoying life again! Here's what I learnt from working too much and why I won't be doing it again:

Stress Affects EVERYTHING 
By the end of that week, not only was I in physical pain but I was ill, arguing with Jonny about everything and I couldn't go to the toilet.

Happieness Over Money 
This one was hard because I am prettty money motivated but I've realised that as long as I have enough money, I don't need to make my life hard just so I can have more; and that goes for my saving habbits as well as my earning ones.

I haven't had as much money come in over the past few weeks but I have been much happier! Jonny and I went to Movie World on Tuesday and didn't take any notice of how much it cost. We got an Uber there, bought a pair of bugs bunny ears and ate ice cream for lunch. It was an expensive day but totally worth it. And actually, in the grand scheme of things it wasnt all that expensive - I must have spent $100/50GBP on the whole day.

On the other side of that though, contrary to how I used to live at home, I have also realised that I don't need to spend loads to have fun. Last weekend, Jonny and I got drunk and stayed in. We cooked dinner, cleaned the flat, had a bath and hit the gym with the boys when they got home from work at 3am and honestly; it was everything. 

Imagine having a job that you miss doing after a few days off. I actually love doing Uber but instead, I spent my evenings working somewhere that I hated because it earnt more money. Now, I no longer dread going to work and split my nights between Uber, writing or going to the gym. I still can't bring myelf to take a night off unless Jonny has a night off from work as well.

Ok one more thing, after wearing 7kgs of what I took in my carry on to Thailand back in January for the past 10 months, I got myself some new clothes this week; it always amazes me how happy a new pair of shoes makes me feel.

The Importance of Looking After Your Body
I thought I'd just take a couple of days off and start again on Monday but after 40 hours of cycling, it literally took me weeks before my legs felt normal and I never want to feel like that again. Now, I go to the gym a few times a week just to stretch. 

My first real gym kit! (So now I look like I'm actually supposed to be at the gym and not a bar crawl in Phuket.)

I also started to notice that crap food actually does makes you feel crap. With two foodie jobs and another one that involved me sitting outside Mcdonalds for hours on end (waiting for deliveries), I was eating who knows what at who knows when and I was feeling the effects but like I said, Jonny and I have started batch cooking healthy meals once a week so were getting better slowly. 

I Need Sleep
My mind what just whizzing around with what job where, when and who and even though I was exhausted, getting to sleep was almost impossible. On top of that, we go to bed at around 5am most nights by which time the sun is back and the birds are tweeting outside the window. It's also starting to get really hot here in Australia. I just cant function on broken sleep. 

So first, we got rid of the duvet and have been sleeping with just a bed sheet. I got some ear plugs and an eye mask. Then I started taking some sleeping supplements, Neuro Rest capsules from Utmost Me. They contain magnesium and 5-HTP which is supposed to help the mind relax and you know what, I think it works. That, combined with giving up two of my most stressful jobs have seen me sleeping through the night/morning and waking up feeling much more energised. We've also started to make a consoius effort to keep our room tidy becuase mess just puts us in a bad mood. Now we're just waiting for our furniture delivery so we can start putting everything in its place instead of on the floor.
So now? I have one normal part time office job (which I love; SEO like I did back home!), I do freelance writing from wherever I fancy and I uber all night. I make time to go to the gym, try to eat healthily and sometimes, I manage to go whole days without doing any work. Jonny and I usually get to bed at 3am and listen to Harry Potter on Aubible until we both fall asleep. We go to the cinema and we see our friends and life is simple again!

I just wanted to finish this post by saying sorry for the terrible quality of my blog photos since I left the UK. I left my good camera at home when I left and all I've got now is a phone camera and a boyfriend who doesn't understand the concept of taking blog photos.  
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